"The opening pages of Ayana's debut took my breath away. I can't remember when I read anything that moved me quite this way, besides the work of Toni Morrison". (Oprah Winfrey). Fifteen years old and blazing with the hope of a better life, Hattie Shepherd fled the horror of the American South on a dawn train bound for Philadelphia. Hattie's is a ...
"The opening pages of Ayana's debut took my breath away. I can't remember when I read anything that moved me quite this way, besides the work of Toni Morrison". (Oprah Winfrey). Fifteen years old and blazing with the hope of a better life, Hattie Shepherd fled the horror of the American South on a dawn train bound for Philadelphia. Hattie's is a tale of strength, of resilience and heartbreak that spans six decades. Her American dream is shattered time and again: a husband who lies and cheats and nine children raised in a cramped little house that was only ever supposed to be temporary. She keeps the children alive with sheer will and not an ounce of the affection they crave. She knows they don't think her a kind woman - but how could they understand that all the love she had was used up in feeding them and clothing them. How do you prepare your children for a world you know is cruel? The lives of this unforgettable family form a searing portrait of twentieth century America. From the revivalist tents of Alabama to Vietnam, to the black middle-class enclave in the heart of the city, to a filthy bar in the ghetto, "The Twelve Tribes of Hattie" is an extraordinary, distinctive novel about the guilt, sacrifice, responsibility and heartbreak that are an intrinsic part of ferocious love.
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Publishers Weekly, 2012-10-15 Mathis's remarkable debut traces the life of Hattie Shepherd through the eyes of her offspring, depicting a family whose members are distant, fiercely proud, and desperate for connection with their mother. When 16-year-old Hattie's newborn twins, her first with husband August, die from pneumonia in the winter of 1925, it is a devastation that will disfigure her for the rest of her life. As the novel moves from closeted musician Floyd's fearful attempt to love another man in 1948, to Six's flight to Alabama two years later after beating a boy nearly to death, Alice's rift with her brother Billups in the late 1960s, consumptive Bell's aborted suicide in 1975, and Cassie's descent into schizophrenia in the early 1980s, what ties these lives together is a longing for tenderness from the mother they call the General. Strong, angry Hattie despairs as August, an ineffectual though affectionate father, reveals himself to be a womanizer who is incapable of supporting the family. Hattie finds happiness with Lawrence, a gambler; after having his baby, Hattie leaves August and her other children and goes with Lawrence to Baltimore, but returns to the house on Wayne Street, in Philadelphia, almost immediately. Sick with longing for her dead twins and all that her children will never have, Hattie retreats into coldness. As her children age, they come to terms with their intense need for and resentment of the mother who kept them alive but starved their hearts, while Hattie faces a choice between anger and peace. Mathis weaves this story with confidence, proving herself a gifted and powerful writer. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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